Homeschooling was not the plan for iLEAD Exploration 9th grader Josh Bird, but by the end of 7th grade it was clear to his mom, Mary, that he was not thriving in his brick-and-mortar school, and something needed to change. “He was so unhappy, with behavior challenges, and just sad,” Mary remembers. Josh enrolled with iLEAD Exploration in the 2018-2019 school year and celebrated 8th grade promotion with a huge smile on his face! Now in high school, he has the best grades he has had in a long time and is engaged, joyful, and confident again. December’s theme of “zest” fits Josh perfectly, as he faces new challenges with curiosity and energy and is always eager to share his enthusiasm.
Josh has a diagnosis of ADHD, and it can be a challenge for him to stay focused on the task at hand, especially in difficult areas of study like writing and literature. He has greatly benefitted from the focused environment of homeschooling. At times, he still has moments of frustration, but with a difference. “He can have the feelings and then process them and understand, one-on-one with me,” says Mary. “In conventional school, he would just miss the entire lesson.” Along with academics, Josh is learning a lot of social-emotional skills that he needs to thrive in life. This invaluable learning is furthered in sessions with iLEAD’s student support team.
The flexible model of homeschool has also allowed Josh to engage more with his passions. Josh eats, sleeps, and breathes fish and any kind of marine life. His goal is to pursue the field of marine biology. At every opportunity (after finishing schoolwork), he helps his dad work on their boat and enjoys fishing. Before visiting a particular fishing destination, Josh will research the exact bait, lures, and rods they will need, and he independently sets up all the gear and bait for himself and his two younger siblings. Josh also loves riding dirt bikes and going shooting with his family, and he recently got a new quad. He has a contagious zest for outdoor life.
Now Josh and his mother, Mary, who works as a nurse, are almost a year and a half into their homeschooling journey. One goal of Mary’s is to help Josh never see his learning differences as an excuse, and she works hard to support Josh in staying accountable and rising to the challenge of high school. Josh is taking one class at a learning center and several through iLEAD Online, and he is doing well!
Mary sums it up this way: “He has grown by leaps and bounds in everything. It has been a huge effort for the whole family, but we are getting there, and the progress is unbelievable. His confidence level is so different, and he is so happy! Days do not always go as planned, and I get frustrated, but then I look at what he’s learned and how far he’s come, and I am so proud.”
Newsela is a free resource that allows you to choose articles at different Lexile levels so that reading can be easily differentiated between learners with varying reading levels. Articles include the arts, sciences, technology, mythology, history, and more! Newsela also provides comprehension checks and short writing prompts for each article.
For more information, click here.
BOOM! Learning is an online resource for teachers, parents, and other paraprofessionals to use interactive educational tools with their learners. The program offers customized activities created by teachers and other paraprofessionals for all types of learners to use during virtual or in-person services.
Click here to check it out!
Over the course of the 2019-2020 school year, our team will be working with you as we develop a deeper understanding of the iLEAD Schoolwide Learner Outcomes (SLOs). These core competencies — purpose, growth mindset, gratitude, zest, grit, self-control, optimism, curiosity, social intelligence, college and career readiness — were carefully selected to develop the whole child with a focus on academic and social-emotional learning. Each month, we will focus on a new outcome, highlighting and exemplifying each competency to develop these 21st century learning (and living!) skills.
We will be launching this initiative with a webinar exclusively for our iLEAD Exploration families, led by Linda Krystek, founding member of the iLEAD Maker Team and experienced practitioner and expert in the area of social-emotional and academic learning.Exploration SLO Parent Webinar Flyer (2)
Hi! My name is Kayla Evans and I am a virtual education specialist for iLEAD Exploration. I live in Derby, Kansas and have been with iLEAD for a year and a half now. I have two beautiful, yet rambunctious boys who are five and one years old. I also have a pug and a miniature schnauzer; both girls. When free time presents itself, I love taking time to self-reflect through journaling, playing piano and singing, and doing yard work! My lawn and I have a special relationship where I’m pretty sure the lawn is currently winning! Working for iLEAD Exploration has been a true blessing in my life and I really look forward to the coming years and success of our amazing school!
Fun fact: I’ve been in the military, both in active duty and now as an Army Reservist, for 12 years and counting. HOOAH!
If you’re looking for a way to keep your learner engaged as this school year comes to an end, BrainPOP is a great option! BrainPOP is one of the complimentary subscriptions offered through iLEAD, and it provides hundreds of animated educational videos accompanied by interactive quizzes, activities, and games.
Summer break can be a great way to recharge and relax after a school year full of work. We’ve compiled a list of several ideas you and your learner can participate in this summer!
1. Spend time reading.
Summer is a great opportunity to work on your learners’ reading skills by reading with each other. You can also use different websites and apps to assist.
- For a small fee, Epic will provide your kids with unlimited access to 35,000 books and videos over the summer.
- ABCYa provides a variety of educational games and activities.
- Starfall has a host of activities for kids in grades TK-3.
- Storyline Online reads stories aloud by great actors.
- Celebrate summer reading with the Barnes and Noble Book Reading Program!
- Check with your local library about summer reading programs!
2. Stick to a schedule.
If your school year is structured with a specific schedule, structuring your summer with a similar flow can make for an easier transition back to school again in the fall.
3. Kidsbowlfree.com offers your children the opportunity to bowl for FREE all summer long! Each day, every child gets two free games. Visit their website to find the nearest participating bowling alley near you!
4. Planet Fitness welcomes high school teens ages 15 – 18 to work out at any of its more than 1,800 locations throughout the United States for free all summer long as much as they want! This offer is available from May 15, 2019, to September 1, 2019!
5. Other Fun Activities
–Build a fort or tent. Take an afternoon and push your couches close together. Drape them with blankets or sheets and eat a snack or play a game under your fort or tent!
–Play hide and seek in the dark. Blackout your windows and prep areas that may be hazardous. It certainly makes for great entertainment.
-Make milk carton boats. Shape an old milk carton into a boat. You can even paint it and stick a toothpick in it with a taped flag! Test it out by putting it in water in the sink or bath. Does it float? If not, your kids can brainstorm ways to fix it.
–Complete a puzzle together. This can be a wonderful time to bond with your kids and work together to solve a puzzle.When searching for the right puzzle, look for the correct age group, as there are specific difficulty levels out there!
-Write in shaving cream. This may get messy, but what a fun way to write! If you’re prepared for the mess, have your kids practice their ABCs.
–Paint rocks. Have fun painting faces or designs on rocks with your kids. You could use these as door stoppers or paper weights!
–Balloon tennis. Using paper plates, paint stirrers, and air-blown balloons, you can easily make this fun summer kids’ activity for the outside. You could also play this inside since they are hitting a balloon!
-Homemade water blob. Using plastic sheeting and duct tape, create your very own water blob!
–Squirt gun water painting. With watercolor paper, watercolors, an easel, and a squirt gun, painting is made fun!
-Glow in the dark mason jar. You can make believe with this glow-in-the-dark jar! You can capture fairies or even use it as a night light. The results are radiant!
-Dig for fossils. This activity involves preparation, but the fun your kids will have is a lasting effect. Bury different items in dirt-filled shoeboxes and have your kids discover different items!
-Egg drop. Obtain a set of eggs you don’t mind wasting and have your kids come up with inventive ways to secure and protect an egg so that when you drop it from a window, it does not break. This can include placing the egg inside a shoebox filled with foam, or any other creative method out there.
-Make a video. Take the family video camera and have your kids video record the summer-y nature outside with commentary, conduct talk shows outside, or be actors and actresses. It can be an amusing memory to look back on one day.
Splash Math is a fun and engaging math program for children in grades K-5. Splash Math uses games and interactive characters to help your kids work on math problems. While learning, they are earning coins and rewards for working hard on their math problems. This site is also aligned with school curriculum, and has been proven to help improve your learners’ test scores! Splash Math works on desktops, laptops, Chromebooks and iPads. To create your free account, click here.
My name is Kelly Adkins and I am a school psychologist. This is my first year with iLEAD Exploration and I love working alongside educational facilitators, education specialists, and parents to help learners reach their potential. As a school psychologist, I conduct initial and triennial special education evaluations for learners from kindergarten to 12th grade.
I live in Anaheim Hills, California. I live with my husband, our one-year-old son Travis, and our three crazy dogs. I love spending time with my family outdoors and doing things like camping, deep sea fishing, dirt bike riding, off-roading, hiking, snowboarding, archery, mountain biking, and exploring new places.
My husband and I have been married for five years; however, we have been together since we were sophomores in high school! We were set up by my stepsister and have been together ever since!
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
The Montessori Numbers for Kids app offers many different activities in one app for just $3.99. Your learners can use this app to count, trace numbers, use counting blocks, and so much more! This app is offered in the Apple App store.
There are many ways that math can be made fun and engaging for kids!
This link provides 30 different ways to encourage math throughout the day.
Test anxiety can linger for a bit once the test is over! Below is a list of tips your learner can follow once they’ve completed their state testing.
- Talk about it with your teacher or parents! There might be some rules about how much you tell people about what’s ON the test, but you can certainly talk about how you think it went. Focus on the positive.
- REST! You just worked really hard! Give yourself some time to relax if you can.
- Move ON with your life! There is nothing left for you to do. Worrying about how you did won’t change anything. Using the words of a popular snow queen, “LET IT GO!” Remind yourself that you did the absolute best you can do, and take some time to celebrate this big accomplishment!
Please refer to April’s Student Support Newsletter to read tips for before and during testing.
Downs, C. (n.d.). Brown University. Retrieved from Managing Testing Anxiety: https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/counseling-and-psychological-services/index.php?q=managing-test-anxiety
At iLEAD, we believe consistent development and growth are vital to one’s well-being and to our community as a whole! Over the past year, our staff has been collectively studying and implementing the philosophies and exercises put forth by Stephen Covey in his widely renowned book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concepts explored in this book are useful for people of all ages and from all walks of life! We will continue summarizing each habit in the Monday Message, and we hope it will encourage you to explore the habits at a deeper level by demonstrating and practicing them in your own environment.
Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind
In the second chapter of his book, Covey states that decisions must be made strategically. The author literally begins with the end when he asks the reader to imagine his/her funeral and what others might be saying and thinking. What do you want them to say? What do you want them to think? These are the real core values that you probably care about most, and should therefore be the ones on which you focus your life’s work, both personally and professionally.
Lead yourself toward your goals from the beginning and plan strategically. When you do this, you will find that you can anticipate obstacles and distractions. You will be able to cope and work with them more effectively! The planning you have already done will enable you to reach your goals faster and prevent you from wandering down wrong or unhelpful paths. Happy planning!
What is Test Anxiety?
While it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before a test, some learners find test anxiety debilitating. Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread can combine with physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, headache, or nausea.
Below we have compiled proven testing tips from Brown University for you and your learner to refer to before, during, and after the test.
1. Realize that there are practice tests available and use them not only to work on your test-taking but also to practice controlling your anxiety level.
2. Remind yourself of past successes. You can do it!
3. Visualize completing the test successfully despite your anxiety.
4. Get a good night’s sleep for several days before the exam. With adequate sleep, your ability to think clearly and to deal with anxiety will both improve.
5. High anxiety can increase with high consumptions of caffeine. Try to avoid over caffeinating on the day of the exam.
6. Eat a nutritious breakfast before the test and pack smart snacks for ongoing energy. Look for foods that offer a steady stream of nutrients, rather than a sugar high followed by a crash.
7. Feeling rushed will only amp up the anxiety. Pack everything you need for the exam the night before and set the alarm so you can get out the door on time.
8. Get to the test site a little early, but try to avoid talking with other learners right before the exam, as their anxieties may increase your own. Instead, take a walk around the building and silently talk to yourself, breathe, and/or meditate. Moving your body can help rid you of some of the nervous energy you are experiencing.
For more test-taking tips, see our test taking tips post that can also be found in this month’s newsletter.
Below is a list of tips from Brown University for your learner to apply while taking a test.
1. If possible, choose a seat in a place with few distractions (probably near the front). You might also want to bring earplugs to limit distractions.
2. Remind yourself that you don’t know all the material that could possibly appear on the test and nobody else does either. Still, you can do your best to get some “mileage” out of what you do know.
3. Expect a few curve balls on the exam. Remind yourself that you’re not expecting to get 100% on the exam and that you’re expecting to pass. Additionally, your sense of what questions should appear on the test is not going to match perfectly with what the writer of the test had in mind. Therefore, when you encounter a curve ball on the exam, don’t get upset and lose your concentration. Make an intelligent guess.
4. If you begin to have negative thoughts, say STOP to yourself and remind yourself of past successes.
5. If you continue to feel overly anxious, do the following ANXIETY CONTROL PROCEDURE to reduce your tension. This exercise is so simple that you may be skeptical about its effectiveness. However, many learners have found that it really helps lower their anxiety to a level that is helpful rather than harmful.
-Close your eyes.
-Breathe in slowly to the count of seven and exhale to the count of seven.
-Continue this slow breathing until you actually feel your body begin to relax. (Most people find that it takes 2 to 4 sequences.)
-Open your eyes and give yourself a positive, very specific self-talk (i.e., “You’re sure to do well. You studied hard. You’re doing the best you can.”) This whole procedure should take only about a minute and it’s well worth the time.
6. Move your body. Roll your shoulders, stretch your legs, get up for a bathroom break.
7. Banish all thoughts of how well or poorly you might be doing on the exam, as thinking about your score will only increase your anxiety.
8. Most learners prefer to carefully work through the questions once rather than rushing through the exam and leaving time at the end for checking.
9. HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Approach your studying seriously, but think of the test as a game. Don’t obsess about a particularly difficult question. If you’re unsure of the answer, guess and move on. Remind yourself that you can miss several questions and still do well.
My name is Ginger Pillitteri, and I am an education specialist teaching 5th grade. I have been teaching special education for 19 years and am so excited to be with iLEAD this year.
Fun Fact: I live in Colorado where we have a ton of deer that roam the neighborhoods. I can call out to them if they are nearby and they all come running to me. I’ve also had one of the mama deer let me pet her newborn babies a day after she gave birth. This was the best experience ever.
I am creating an app for families with special needs children called SpEd Advisors. It is a free, review-based app where families can go to find resources for their family member with special needs.
Favorite Quote: Ephesians 2:10
DuoLingo is a great app for those interested in learning another language! Each lesson practices translation, listening, reading and speaking. As you work through each lesson, you can see if the answers you chose are correct and have opportunities to work on words or phrases you missed.
Duolingo is available to download on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. For more information, click here.
Accommodations and modifications are provided to make sure that learners with disabilities have access to an appropriate education program. So, what are they and how are they different?
Accommodations are put in place for learners with disabilities who are either on an IEP or 504, students who have barriers with learning, or students who are at risk for failure. An accommodation is a change that helps a learner overcome or work around their disability, but does not reduce the learning expectations.
Modifications on the other hand, do change the instructional level or benchmark for the learner. For example, a learner might need to work at a different grade level or study fewer concepts and skills. We usually use modifications for learners who would normally be pulled out to a separate program, learners with low incidence disabilities, or for learners who have had accommodations implemented, but still have difficulty succeeding.
Whether your learner needs accommodations or modifications, these are put in place to create a system that works for your learner to help them succeed!
This is my first year with iLEAD Exploration as an education specialist and I am LOVING it! I love to virtually teach our learners and work with them on their goals and I love my team!
I live on the East Coast in Virginia. I love to sit inside on a cold winter’s day under a blanket and drink hot coffee. In the summer, I enjoy planting flowers in my yard and hanging out in the pool. I am married to my high school sweetheart and am still oh-so-in-love. I have two wonderful boys ages 15 and 12.
Fun fact: As a child I was chosen at Nickelodeon Studios to taste SLIME (it was made of pudding with green food dye)!
My favorite quote: “Whoever wants to be a leader must first be a servant.”
Bitsboard is a great app for learners who need help with focus and working memory. The app includes flashcards, matching games, and visual multiple choice games on subjects ranging from a foreign language to instrument sounds. This app is beneficial to any alternative learner or young child, but is especially recommended for children dealing with autism spectrum disorders. This app is simple, easy to use, and appropriate for anyone ages 4 and up.
This app can be found at the iTunes store and can be used on your iPhone or iPad. For more information about this app, click here.
My family and I consist of my husband and our three-month-old daughter, Charlotte (although we affectionately call her Charlie for short). Thanks to my amazing colleagues, I was able to spend her first eight weeks entirely with her, and returned from maternity leave after the winter break. Our pets include a dog named Layla, and a fish named Fredrick. We currently reside in Orange County, CA where I have been lucky enough to have spent most of my life.
This is my first school year with iLEAD Exploration. I am the school counselor for the K-8 population, as well as the 504 coordinator. In my early college days, I knew I wanted to work with children within the education field so I tried a few different things before I found school psychology. I have a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders, and had aspirations of being a speech and language pathologist. After realizing I wanted to work on helping children in a different way, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in educational psychology. My strong interest in mental health also convinced me to get a specialty in educationally related mental health services.
Fun Fact- I absolutely love to travel! I have been to four continents, 10 countries, and 25 states. I was also pregnant when I went to Australia and New Zealand, so technically I have already started the travel bug in our daughter. She will also be going on her first flight this summer!
Favorite quote: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
Our student support team works hard everyday to connect and work with our learners and families. We help our learners grow and meet their goals in an environment that is well suited for them. Please take a moment to watch this video about our student support team, showing how iLEAD has changed families’ lives, and feel free to share.
Mommy Speech Therapy is a website that has great suggestions for parents and teachers on strategies for improving comprehension and speech. It offers free materials for practicing speech sounds at home and supplementing ongoing therapy.
Click here to check it out!